Period tracking app Flo has released a new “Anonymous Mode” setting that gives users the option to access the app without their name, email address and technical identifiers being associated with their health data. Flo promised to release the mode shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The company launched the new Anonymous Mode setting on Wednesday for all iOS users. Android users will get access to the new setting next month, Flo says.
Following the Supreme Court’s reversal, activists and privacy advocates warned users of period tracking apps to be wary of the possibility that their health data could be used against them if they were to seek abortion services. Flo’s new Anonymous Mode setting is a direct response to these fears.
“Women’s health information shouldn’t be a liability,” said Cath Everett, the vice president of product and content at Flo, in a statement. “Every day, our users turn to Flo to gain personal insights about their bodies. Now, more than ever, women deserve to access, track, and gain insight into their personal health information without fearing government prosecution. We hope this milestone will set an example for the industry and inspire companies to raise the bar when it comes to privacy and security principles.”
The new setting is based on decoupling health data from personal information through the client device, transport channel and server. The data that is transferred from original accounts to Anonymous Mode accounts includes data such as logged cycle dates and symptoms, reminders and the user’s aim for using Flo.
Flo is working with Cloudflare to ensure that no single party processing user data for Anonymous Mode accounts has complete information on who the user is and what they are trying to access. Flo is using Cloudflare’s App Relay to ensure user privacy on several levels, from logged symptoms on the device through the data transfer over the network to the server side. As a result, users leave significantly reduced digital footprints, Flo says.
Once a user activates Anonymous Mode, they will no longer be able to recover data if their phone is lost, changed or stolen. The company also says there may be limitations to using the app’s full personalization benefits, which is why the new setting is being offered as an option for concerned users, instead of being activated by default.
The company says that regardless of whether a user chooses to set up an Anonymous Mode account, all user data remains subject to its privacy and security protections. The company notes that it does not sell identifiable user health data to any other company.
The new addition will be a welcome option for users of the app who are concerned about their health data, especially for those who remember Flo’s previous privacy issues. In 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flo was sharing sensitive user data with third-party apps. The report found that the app told Facebook when a user was having their period or if they had wanted to get pregnant.
Flo says the new setting is based on the principle that users should be able to access medically credible information to help them make informed decisions about their health without anxiety or concern.
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